Monday, February 14, 2011

I Am Not Inadequate

I woke up this morning in a fog, feeling very sad. It's strange how sometimes, everything is going well for me in life and I am feeling good about the direction I am headed, yet I wake up feeling utterly sad and almost in tears. It's an empty feeling that doesn't make logical sense to me. It doesn't happen a lot, but enough for me to take note and wonder.

I paid attention this morning when I woke up sad. Usually, I brush it off as "I am not a morning person" or "I must have had a bad dream I don't remember." Maybe true. And I always feel better within an hour. But this time, I tuned in.

It was not just "sad." I tried to feel the feelings and not just drown them in coffee and ignore them while I go about other things. I tried to put a label on the feelings, and finally, I found it. The label was:


I feel inadequate. A lot. I think it started many years ago and many of the events in my life reinforced that sense of inadequacy. It isn't even *about* a particular thing, like parenting or losing weight or my abilities. It is a general feeling, like I wake up and there is a flashing neon sign above my head... "Inadequate...Inadequate...Inadequate."

And then I noticed something. It is not a THOUGHT or even a belief. I honestly do not believe I am inadequate. I actually like myself quite a bit, and think I do a darn good job of most things I set my mind to. I believe I am empowered and steady and... just good. Why this *feeling*, then, of general inadequacy?

I have my theories. As a kid, I was never good enough for God. My mom and my religion constantly told me how God was watching and could even read my thoughts, and how I was really just NOT GOOD ENOUGH for God and boy was he going to punish me someday. I grew up sort of abnormally hyperfocused on religion and on "pleasing God," praying every night when I was 8 and 9 and 10 years old that God would "please, please forgive me for all the bad things I have done and thought today that I don't know I did wrong or forgot about." I was scared all the time of God's displeasure. (I think I was pretty scared of my mother's displeasure, too, until I got old enough to grab the wooden spoon away from her as she was chasing me to hit me with it). I think my mother said things to me that I don't even remember when I was very small, because the tape still echos in my head, and while I can't make out the words, it feels like I ought to be cowering, crying, and wondering why I am such a bad girl.

I gained some confidence... a lot of confidence, actually... when I was 18 and left that religion and my parent's home and moved out on my own to work and save for college. I found a new self-love and freedom in a merciful new God, along with the sense that FINALLY I was good enough, because even if I wasn't Jesus had it covered. But a new demon came into my life, in a marriage that was hurtful to me in many ways. I began to once again feel inadequate... as a wife, a mother, a stepmother, a person. I was never good enough. If I washed every scrap of laundry in the house and hung it all out on the line to dry while caring for my small children, gardening, quilting and keeping a very clean house, I was berated for the one sock that I did NOT wash because it had fallen behind the dresser. When I gained 20 pounds after losing a baby during pregnancy, I was made fun of. I couldn't DO right or BE right for almost nine years, and once again, I felt... inadequate.

Yet again, I left a bad situation and made things better. I found my confidence again in my ability to work and get excellent grades in college, win scholarships, earn praise, raise my children alone. It was HARD but I was so proud. I did it. And then I remarried, and things fell apart again, and the blinking red light above my head this time said, "Failure...Failure...Failure."

So here I am. I've taken back my power, I am improving my life by leaps and bounds and doing a good job with the kids and the dog and myself, I think. Yet I woke up this morning sad, because I *felt* inadequate.

I guess it is one of those ingrained notions that one must consciously work to overcome. I have changed my *thoughts* about myself. Yet the feelings, which are nonexistent during the light of day, creep out and leak into my consciousness in the weakened state of morning grogginess.

And why am I writing about this? Because I believe that feeling of being inadequate has been one of the driving factors in my weight loss struggle. Oh, I have made lots of progress, but it's still a struggle. And this is partly why. I am still inclined to shove food into my mouth when I am succeeding at weight loss, to reinforce those feelings of inadequacy. "I don't deserve it, I can't do it, I am not good enough, I am a failure." That tape is being played. But I am cutting off the tape. I am done hearing it. I don't *believe* I am inadequate... so there is no reason to *feel* it anymore. I can replace those feelings with something positive, something good. Say goodbye to that neon light, because I am turning it off tonight.


LHA said...

A very insightful post. It is hard to leave the scars of childhood behind. I might add that all of us who have been significantly overweight share some of these same feelings whether or not we have other things in our past that add to the feelings of inadequacy.

In our society, being overweight is considered to be a sign of weakness, sloth, poor character and laziness by many people. Every day that you have to endure the stares of disgust or words of ridicule, a part of your self esteem is eroded. Even when we lose weight, the "fat self" is still in there, lurking in the back of our minds, reminding us of all the negative feelings that have been thrust on us throughout our lives.

Having been fat as a child, I vividly remember all the teasing, name calling and even remarks or lectures by well meaning adults. There is no way to leave these unhappy memories completely behind. I often feel inadequate, damaged or hopeless because that was what I was told I was for so many years.

Bravo to you for having the strength to leave unhealthy situations in your past. The fact that you still struggle with feelings of inadequacy doesn't diminish the importance of how far you have come. Each of us has to dig deep within ourselves and love the person we are, as well as understand and accept the person we once were. It is a difficult journey, but one well worth taking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. said...

This is a very powerful post, one that I'm sure a number of readers will relate to. And while I'm sorry that you were feeling this way, it's wonderful that you can 1) identify the source and 2) make a positive of it by sharing your insights.

As you say, these feelings can pop up anytime. I wonder whether on this particular day your subconscious reminded you that it was Valentine's Day. With so much marketing and ridiculous focus on romance, love, relationships and so on, it can be overwhelming. And not just if you don't happen to be in a relationship, but also if you are and your relationship doesn't match the unrealistic expectations (because of the silly media frenzy)we tend to have.

Digging down deep to bring these feelings up to the surface where they can be examined in the light of day is part of the journey we all are dealing with. Thank you for sharing this.

Now go kiss your children and hug your dog. Or vice versa!

Hanlie said...

Gosh, this post had me swallowing hard a few times. I know all about feeling inadequate and am working hard to change that track. Change doesn't happen by itself, we literally have to drive it. And you've done extremely well with that, so I have no doubt that you will heal this wound as well.

Val N. said...

I once told someone I was stronger because of my background. She looked at me and said, "no, you are strong in spite of your background. Many people would not have come through the way you have."

I feel the same way about you. Not only are you adequate, but you are wonderful and insightful, capable and deserving of having the life you desire.

Keep feeling those feelings and discarding those that are invalid, those that have been placed by others instead of ones truly created by you.

Be strong, and keep up the great work.

Maria said...

I am a long time reader, a lurker mostly, but have been so inspired by your journey, your honesty, and your willingness to persevere. I am reading a book right now that you may enjoy. It's called "Made to Crave" and is about filling our desires and cravings with God instead of food. The author reflects on her own weight loss struggles and eventually comes to realize that instead of filling those voids with food, we need to fill them with God. It's a powerful book and I am getting so much out of it. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.

Anonymous said...

This is sad. I hope that you can continue to overcome these words.

I've been lurking on your blog for at least a year. I've never even struggled with my weight, although I am in recovery for an eating disorder. There's something about your vulnerability and humility that attracts me to your writing and your story.

I read this article on this morning and it make me think of some of the experiences with binge eating that you've described:

Good luck. You are enough.

Rosemary said...

I've decided that this is the year I'm going to lose weight.! Do I want to..NO !! I love food ! I love cooking food, feeding lots of people, and going out to dinner. But eating the wrong foods are my enemy ! So , I am now on the Medifast diet. 5 weeks tomorrow. So far I'm doing good. The one thing I found HELPFUL, was reading Medifast blogs. Thats how I found yours ! I looked forward everyday reading about your day, good one and bad ones. How all of a sudden I've found a good friend, because we connect in sooo many ways. Your able to put your feeling out there, and we listen, Never met you, but feel like your a good friend. Keep up the good work !! I'm trying !

LJ said...

You are not inadequate and you *can* shut off the tape. That's all it is - a tape. It's not the truth.


R. Reed said...

Those tapes are hard to rewind and/or erase aren't they? I grew up similar and have those same thoughts although I had never taken the time to really search out a good describing word for them. You came up with the perfect word. I loved this post, so personal and strong! Thank you for being an inspiration to so many. Stay Strong :)

Lynna said...

One of my wise spiritual sages taught me: Just because I honestly feel something doesn't make it true. I think you expressed that in this post. You feel inadequate, but you combat those feelings with expressions of truth.

Here's the truth that I believe: God is delighted in God's workmanship (I love scripture that talks of God singing and dancing in delight over us... like you delight in your precious daughter!) and that I am a fallible human being who is inadequate in some ways, it's okay to be inadequate because I am loved, desperately loved, and that love empowers me to be and to grow so much stronger and better than I could ever have imagined. Blessings to you precious child of God.

Anonymous said...

Feeling inadequate can be the worst feeling in the world, so well done for speaking openly about it. It helps others to see that they're not alone in feeling this way... Even people who seem really confident feel inadequate sometimes. It can be crushing so I'm glad to know that when I feel that way, I'm not the only one :) we can overcome it!

Elizabeth said...

You have persevered & endured. You have not let those words beat you. If you've made it this far, you can make it on the journey forever.

You. Are. Strong.

beerab said...

*big hugs* Lyn. I can definitely relate to how you feel- with my dad no matter how smart I was it didn't matter cuz I wasn't thin. I bent over backwards for him to be the perfect daughter but I never was- taking him out of my life was the best thing I ever did for myself. Years later when he saw me the first thing he mentioned was my weight and that was when I knew he hadn't changed.

Anonymous said...

Bravo for a beautifully thoughtful and CONSCIOUS post. Every time we stop, listen, and stare down our inner critic, we triumph. I admire you so much for all of yours - past, present, and future. Stay the course, oh UBER-adequate Woman!!

Anonymous said...

This perspective goes along with perfectionism, and all-or-nothing thinking. Anything that falls short of perfect behavior (and even perfect thoughts) gets classified in one's psyche as "inadequate"...because it implies we are not in full control. Of course control is an illusion. As children, many of us needed to maintain that illusion of control because it was easier to accept the idea that things would get better if only we ourselves were better. However, since reality showed us that we could never be good enough to fix what was wrong around us, then we concluded we were not good enough.

That worked as an inner defense because it was much safer, emotionally, than having to acknowledge the fact that we were truly powerless to control the bleak circumstances of our lives, and powerless to control the cruel and dysfunctional behaviors of the adults in our lives.

As long as one continues to maintain the illusion of control, as a natural defense mechanism, and holds oneself to a standard of perfection, one may feel crummy but still safer than confronting reality: bad stuff can happen no matter what we do. Very bad stuff.

We can't use the illusion of control to keep bad things from actually happening, but we can use it to make our selves feel sort of secure...yes, we are inadequate but by golly at least we are not least we can control the things that matter, like our thoughts and feelings, or so the thinking goes...

Life doesn't work that way.

Because, now, one has simply perpetuated the illusion of control. Worst of all, one has created a brand new set of things to feel inadequate about...since it is impossible to maintain control over one's thoughts and feelings then one will continue being haunted by the undeserved but pervasive sense of inadequacy.

And the loop goes 'round and 'round.

To be continued...someday... :)


Dinahsoar said...

I too struggled with the same due to misteaching. I finally understood I am accepted in the Beloved--Jesus--and denounced the lies that played in my head, knowing they came from the pits of hell and the father of all lies, Satan. Refusing to accept the lies and rejecting them released me from the bondage and power they had over me.

When we have lies ingrained it in our thinking they don't just dissipate. We have to be proactive in kicking them out.

Sounds like that is what you have realized and are doing. Good for you. You've accomplished so much and will continue to succeed because you are seeking the truth.

Sandra said...

Growing up my mother told me I was "useless" and "lazy" and "weak"...those voices still haunt me from time to time and I also have mornings like you describe, when I just wake up sad...let's not do the same to our children.
Thanks for sharing.

Crys said...

Such a powerful post Lyn. It made me revisit a post I wrote almost 2 years ago called Imperfect But Not Inadequate ( (would HIHGLY recommend the book I talk about in the post too), but your post is a testament to the power of thoughts and history. It may take your head and heart sometime to catch up to where you are now, but every step you take forward is a step away from the past. That's something to be encouraged about.

Crys said...

By the way, the book is called: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power by Dr. Brene' Brown

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, you verbalize your thoughts SO well! I could have written some of those things. It's really too bad that those "tapes" from when we were so little keep playing. Ugh.
((( hugs )))

FatAngryBlog said...

Excellent post and I can relate to it... thank you for sharing this!